Visconti Tarot

The oldest Tarot cards in existence, dating from mid-fifteenth-century Italy, are known as the Visconti or Visconti-Sforza cards, after the noble families that are believed to have commissioned them. Several partial decks from this pattern have been found; the most complete consists of seventy-four cards. Thirty-five of these are housed at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, while the remaining thirty-nine are located in Bergamo, Italy. The deck is therefore identified as the Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo Visconti-Sforza Tarot, though the name is sometimes shortened to Visconti-Sforza or just Visconti. It should not be confused with the so-called Cary-Yale Visconti Tarot, a less complete deck with some peculiar features. You can read more about both decks at Andy's Playing Cards.

Compared to a standard Tarot deck, four cards are missing altogether from the Visconti-Sforza: the Devil, the Tower, the Three of Swords, and the Knight of Coins. Several publishers have sold reproductions of this deck, each with a different interpretation of the absent cards. While the Three and Knight are relatively standard, having the other suit and court cards for reference, the two trumps vary greatly in design and are presented here for comparison.

I am indebted to Tarot Garden, Wicce's Tarot Collection, Mark Filipas, and Abrac, Cerulean, and gregory from the Aeclectic Tarot Forum for photos and information.

NOTE: Cards are not shown actual size

U.S. Games

The first reproduction deck released by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. in 1975 was a limited edition of 500 and had line drawings of the Devil and Tower. The second edition, also released in 1975, had replacement cards by an uncredited artist. Finally, a third edition was released in 1986, with replacement cards by Luigi Scapini. [Stuart Kaplan, The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Vol. 2, p. 25]

All of the cards from the third edition can be viewed at Tarot.com. The deck measures 18 x 9 cm.

First Edition (1975)

Printed by Grafica Gutenberg
 

Second Edition (1975)

Printed by Grafica Gutenberg
 

Third Edition (1986)

Printed by AG Muller
 
 
 
 

Monumenta Longobardica

Also in 1975, a deluxe reproduction was released by Monumenta Longobardica using the same artwork for the replacement cards as the second U.S. Games editon. It is unknown which deck represented the first use of this artwork.

Dal Negro

Dal Negro also released a reproduction deck with the same replacement cards as the second U.S. Games edition. The deck measures 17.5 x 9 cm and can be found at the publisher's website as well as Alida (see Tarots and Cartomancies 1).

Il Meneghello

In 1996, Il Meneghello released a reproduction deck with replacement cards by Giovanni Scarsato. It is available in large (18 x 9 cm) and small (11.3 x 5.7 cm) sizes; both can be found at Alida (see Tarots and Cartomancies 9).

 

Lo Scarabeo

In 1997, Lo Scarabeo released a "restored" deck, measuring 12 x 6.6 cm, with cleaned-up artwork and gold foil backgrounds. The replacement cards were drawn by Atanas Atanassov, based on cards from the Rothschild Collection. A mini version (8 x 4.4 cm) of the first edition deck, lacking the gold foil, was released in 2004.

A second edition of the full-sized, gilded deck was released in 2002, available with or without a book by Giordano Berti and Tiberio Gonard. The replacement cards were again drawn by Atanas Atanassov. An oversized (14.5 x 8 cm) Majors-only edition was released in 2006.

Lo Scarabeo decks are distributed in the U.S. by Llewellyn and are available worldwide at Alida (see Tarots and Cartomancies 6-8).

First Edition (1997)

Second Edition (2002)

 
 

Race Point Publishing

In 2013, a box set entitled The Golden Tarot: The Visconti-Sforza Deck was released with a new reproduction deck and a book by Mary Packard. The art is credited to Rachel Clowes. This set is available through Amazon.

 


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